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  • Editorial

Australians are drowning, spread the word

With more resources than ever, there still hasn’t been a significant reduction in the drowning rate in more than a decade. Is there anything we can do about it?

The first of December signals the official start of summer and National Water Safety Day.

Surf Life Saving and Royal Life Saving have got together to present the 2023 National Coastal Safety Report, and all the same statistics were in there.

The 125 coastal drowning deaths was a slight reduction year on year, but still up on the 10-year average.

Sadly, it’s our brothers, fathers, uncles and granddads who – at 82% – are still the most likely to drown. This year saw a spike in this demographic drowning whilst attempting a rescue, something we saw in the news (and I wrote about) last summer.

Unfortunately, the coastal drowning rate hasn’t really changed for the better in a decade.

We do more research than ever, implement more programs than ever, put on more lifesaving services than ever, do more rescues and preventatives than ever, and yet nothing changes.

None of that seems to be moving the dial.

Is this just as good as it gets?

What else can we do?

One thing lifesaving organisations struggle with is reaching their audience with their message (and sometimes they struggle to align on a message, but that’s another story).

Swim between the red and yellow flags“. “Stop, Look, Plan“. “Float to Survive“. Whatever the message, it costs a fortune to get it in the minds of the people who need it.

The latest summer safety campaign is called “Give an F About the Flags“.

I like that it’s edgy, but I don’t like that it lacks diversity. I doubt it’ll cut through. Not because I want it to fail, it’s just that it’s impossible to reach all the people who need to hear it at the frequency they need to hear it for it to register. Getting the message out costs a lot of $$$.

So, what can you do?

For a start, we can’t give up. We need to spread the message.

But, as an ocean swimmer, there’s no point spreading it to your immediate network, they’re not likely to be the target audience.

What we need to do is use exponential power. If each ocean swimmer who receives the Ocean Swims Newsletter (30,000) sought out and educated five people who need to hear it – friends, neighbours, coworkers – each month of summer, we’d have helped to reach 450,000 people.

If those people then shared the message with five of their close friends and family, we’ve reached 2,250,000 people.

That’s 10% of the Australian population and we’re starting to make a difference.

  • Written by Andre Slade on 1 December 2023
  • (Updated on 5 December 2023)



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